EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has sought to reassure farmers about Mercosur beef by pointing out that less than 1% of Brazilian slaughterhouses are approved for export to the EU — in effect, “the very best”.
He said there is currently a freeze on adding any new establishments to the list of slaughterhouses approved for export to the EU.
He noted that all Brazil beef for the EU has to be deboned and matured; and can enter the EU only through a designated border inspection post, where it is subject to documentary, identity and physical checks.
On the threat of Amazonian destruction for beef farms, he said the main beef producing areas are in southern Brazil.
This week, we continue our presentation of the trade agreement questions and answers published by the European Commission.
How will the agreement help promote sustainable farming in both regions?
The agreement will address several aspects of sustainable farming:
- The EU and Mercosur have agreed to co-operate more closely to raise animal welfare standards.
- The EU and Mercosur have agreed to fight together against antimicrobial resistance linked to the use of antimicrobials in humans and animals — a first for an EU trade agreement.
- The EU and Mercosur have also agreed to co-operate in the scientific arena to ensure a high level of food safety and health protection.
- It includes commitments to ensure that forests are managed sustainably, to combat illegal logging and related trade.
How will the agreement protect sensitive EU agricultural products, in particular, beef, ethanol and poultry?
The agreement opens up the EU market to goods from Mercosur, but limits imports from Mercosur of sensitive agricultural products such as beef, ethanol, pork, honey, sugar and poultry.
This strikes the right balance; Mercosur exports will not put at risk the EU market through unlimited imports in sensitive sectors.
How will the agreement contribute to the fight against climate change?
Under the agreement, the EU and Mercosur commit to effectively implementing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
They also commit to promoting trade’s positive contribution to the fight against climate change.
How will the agreement uphold workers’ rights in both the EU and Mercosur?
Both the EU and Mercosur have strong laws protecting workers’ rights. They have agreed that the trade deal between them must support existing rights and not reduce or dilute them.
The agreement prohibits either side from unduly encouraging trade and investment by derogations from labour laws and by not enforcing labour laws.
The two sides have also agreed to ensure that core labour rights as defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) are respected.
These concern non-discrimination at work; elimination of child labour and of forced labour; freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. They have also agreed commitments on labour inspection and on health and safety at work, in line with ILO standards.
What about the agreement’s impact on the environment, including the Amazonian rainforest?
The EU and Mercosur have agreed that the trade deal between them must support existing environmental standards and labour rights and not lower or dilute them.
They have agreed that each side has the right to regulate to protect the environment and workers’ rights.
The agreement prohibits either side from unduly encouraging trade and investment by derogating from environmental laws or failing to enforce environmental laws.
The agreement also contains commitments on sustainable fisheries and sustainable forest management, among others.
Both sides have agreed to effectively implement the Paris Agreement on climate change. The agreement will also open opportunities for supply chains of products that are produced in a way that helps conserve the environment, such as Brazil nuts from natural forests.
Will the commitments on workers’ rights and environmental protection (sustainable development) be enforceable?
Yes. The commitments set out in the section on trade and sustainable development will be enforceable through a dispute settlement mechanism that includes:
- external review by an independent panel of experts.
- a role for civil society, including representatives of employers and trade unions, at all stages calling on the expertise of international bodies such as the International Labour Organisation.
Does the agreement contain a reference to the precautionary principle?
Yes. The agreement asserts the right of governments’ to regulate on the basis of the precautionary principle. The ‘precautionary principle’ means that governments have a legal right to act to protect human, animal or plant health, or the environment, in the face of a perceived risk, even when scientific evidence is not conclusive.
This is expressly mentioned in the chapter on trade and sustainable development.